BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY  
                              Senator Loni Hancock, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:    AB 797        Hearing Date:    June 28, 2016    
          
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          |Author:    |Steinorth                                            |
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          |Version:   |June 6, 2016                                         |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |No               |
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          |Consultant:|JRD                                                  |
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             Subject:  Motor Vehicles:  Rescue or Provision of Care For  
 
                       Animal's:  Civil and Criminal Liability



          HISTORY

          Source:   Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office; Human  
                    Society of the United States

          Prior Legislation:SB 1806 (Figueroa) - Ch. 431, Stats. 2006

          Support:  ASPCA; Best Friends Animal Society; California  
                    Federation of Dog Clubs; Civil Justice Association of  
                    California; Humane Society Veterinary Medical  
                    Association; Marin Humane Society; San Diego District  
                    Attorney's Office; Sacramento Council of Dog Clubs,  
                    Inc.; San Diego Humane Society; San Francisco SPCA;  
                    Social Compassion in Legislation; San Bernardino  
                    County Sheriff's Department

          Opposition: California Federation of Dog Clubs; The Animal  
          Council

          Assembly Floor Vote:                 77 - 0


          PURPOSE







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          The purpose of this bill is to provide that existing law does  
          not prevent a person from taking the reasonable steps necessary  
          to remove an animal from a motor vehicle if the person holds a  
          reasonable belief that the animal's safety is in immediate  
          danger from heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of  
          food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be  
          expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal,  
          as specified.
          
          Existing law provides that, besides the personal rights  
          mentioned or recognized in the Government Code, every person  
          has, subject to the qualifications and restrictions provided by  
          law, the right of protection from bodily restraint or harm, from  
          personal insult, from defamation, and from injury to his  
          personal relations.  (Civil Code  43.)  
           
           Existing law provides that every person is bound, without  
          contract, to abstain from injuring the person or property of  
          another, or infringing upon any of his or her rights.  (Civil  
          Code  1708.) 
           
           Existing law provides that everyone is responsible, not only for  
          the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury to  
          another caused by his or her lack of ordinary care or skill in  
          the management of his or her property or person, except so far  
          as the latter has, willfully or from lack of ordinary care,  
          brought the injury upon himself or herself.  (Civil Code   
          1714(a).)

          Existing law provides that the ownership of a thing is the right  
          of one or more persons to possess and use it to the exclusion of  
          others. In the Civil Code, the thing of which there may be  
          ownership is called property.  (Civil Code  654.)  Existing law  
          provides that there may be ownership of all inanimate things  
          which are capable of appropriation or of manual delivery; of all  
          domestic animals; of all obligations; of such products of labor  
          or skill as the composition of an author, the good will of a  
          business, trademarks and signs, and of rights created or granted  
          by statute.  (Civil Code  655.)  Existing law provides that  
          property is either: (1) real or immovable; or (2) personal or  
          movable.  (Civil Code  657.)  Existing law provides that every  
          kind of property that is not real is personal.  (Civil Code   
          663.)  








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          Existing law, Section 597.7 of the Penal Code, provides that no  
          person shall leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor  
          vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being  
          of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or  
          lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could  
          reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death  
          to the animal.  A person who violates this law would be subject  
          to specified fines and penalties.  (Penal Code  597.7(a) and  
          (b).)  

          Existing law further provides that nothing in this law prevents  
          a peace officer, humane officer, or an animal control officer  
          from removing an animal from a motor vehicle if the animal's  
          safety appears to be in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack  
          of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other  
          circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause  
          suffering, disability, or death to the animal.  Existing law  
          authorizes the officer to take all steps that are reasonably  
          necessary for the removal of an animal from a motor vehicle,  
          including, but not limited to, breaking into the motor vehicle,  
          after a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person  
          responsible.  Existing law further requires the officer to take  
          the animal to an animal shelter or other place of safekeeping  
          or, if the officer deems necessary, to a veterinary hospital for  
          treatment, and to leave a written notice on the car, as  
          specified, including the address of the location where the  
          animal can be claimed.  (Penal Code  597.7(c).)

          Existing law provides that Section 597.7 does not affect in any  
          way existing liabilities or immunities in current law, or create  
          any new immunities or liabilities.  (Penal Code  597.7(c)(5).)   


          This bill applies the provisions, above, for peace officers,  
          humane officers, and animal control officers to firefighters and  
          other emergency responders, as well.

          This bill provides that Section 597.7 does not prevent a person  
          from taking the reasonable steps necessary to remove an animal  
          from a motor vehicle if the person holds a reasonable belief  
          that the animal's safety is in immediate danger from heat, cold,  
          lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other  
          circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause  








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          suffering, disability, or death to the animal.

          This bill further provides that a person who removes an animal  
          in accordance with that provision is not criminally liable for  
          actions taken reasonably and in good faith, if the person does  
          the following: 

                 Determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise  
               no reasonable manner for the animal to be removed from the  
               vehicle;
                 Contacts a local law enforcement agency, the fire  
               department, animal control, or the "911" emergency service  
               prior to forcibly entering the vehicle;
                 Uses no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the  
               animal from the vehicle than was necessary under the  
               circumstances; and,
                 Immediately turns the animal over to a representative  
               from law enforcement, animal control, or another emergency  
               responder who responds to the scene.

          This bill adds a new civil statute to provide that there shall  
          not be any civil liability on the part of, and no cause of  
          action shall accrue against, a person for property damage or  
          trespass to a motor vehicle, if the damage was caused while the  
          person was rescuing an animal in accordance with the standards  
          in the Penal Code provisions, above.  This bill would further  
          provide that this immunity from civil liability for property  
          damage to a motor vehicle established does not affect a person's  
          civil liability or immunity from civil liability for rendering  
          aid to an animal.

          This bill makes other conforming and technical changes.  

                    RECEIVERSHIP/OVERCROWDING CRISIS AGGRAVATION

          For the past several years this Committee has scrutinized  
          legislation referred to its jurisdiction for any potential  
          impact on prison overcrowding.  Mindful of the United States  
          Supreme Court ruling and federal court orders relating to the  
          state's ability to provide a constitutional level of health care  
          to its inmate population and the related issue of prison  
          overcrowding, this Committee has applied its "ROCA" policy as a  
          content-neutral, provisional measure necessary to ensure that  
          the Legislature does not erode progress in reducing prison  








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          overcrowding.   

          On February 10, 2014, the federal court ordered California to  
          reduce its in-state adult institution population to 137.5% of  
          design capacity by February 28, 2016, as follows:   

                 143% of design bed capacity by June 30, 2014;
                 141.5% of design bed capacity by February 28, 2015; and,
                 137.5% of design bed capacity by February 28, 2016. 

          In December of 2015 the administration reported that as "of  
          December 9, 2015, 112,510 inmates were housed in the State's 34  
          adult institutions, which amounts to 136.0% of design bed  
          capacity, and 5,264 inmates were housed in out-of-state  
          facilities.  The current population is 1,212 inmates below the  
          final court-ordered population benchmark of 137.5% of design bed  
          capacity, and has been under that benchmark since February  
          2015."  (Defendants' December 2015 Status Report in Response to  
          February 10, 2014 Order, 2:90-cv-00520 KJM DAD PC, 3-Judge  
          Court, Coleman v. Brown, Plata v. Brown (fn. omitted).)  One  
          year ago, 115,826 inmates were housed in the State's 34 adult  
          institutions, which amounted to 140.0% of design bed capacity,  
          and 8,864 inmates were housed in out-of-state facilities.   
          (Defendants' December 2014 Status Report in Response to February  
          10, 2014 Order, 2:90-cv-00520 KJM DAD PC, 3-Judge Court, Coleman  
          v. Brown, Plata v. Brown (fn. omitted).)  
           
          While significant gains have been made in reducing the prison  
          population, the state must stabilize these advances and  
          demonstrate to the federal court that California has in place  
          the "durable solution" to prison overcrowding "consistently  
          demanded" by the court.  (Opinion Re: Order Granting in Part and  
          Denying in Part Defendants' Request For Extension of December  
          31, 2013 Deadline, NO. 2:90-cv-0520 LKK DAD (PC), 3-Judge Court,  
          Coleman v. Brown, Plata v. Brown (2-10-14).  The Committee's  
          consideration of bills that may impact the prison population  
          therefore will be informed by the following questions:

              Whether a proposal erodes a measure which has contributed  
               to reducing the prison population;
              Whether a proposal addresses a major area of public safety  
               or criminal activity for which there is no other  
               reasonable, appropriate remedy;
              Whether a proposal addresses a crime which is directly  








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               dangerous to the physical safety of others for which there  
               is no other reasonably appropriate sanction; 
              Whether a proposal corrects a constitutional problem or  
               legislative drafting error; and
              Whether a proposal proposes penalties which are  
               proportionate, and cannot be achieved through any other  
               reasonably appropriate remedy.


          COMMENTS

          1.  Need for Legislation 
          
          According to the author: 

               In California it is a crime to leave an animal unattended  
               in a vehicle under any conditions that could cause harm to  
               the animal - including lack of adequate ventilation, lack  
               of food or water, and heat.


               Every year, hundreds of animals suffer, and many die, in  
               Los Angeles County from being left in hot vehicles.  Even  
               when temperatures are in the low 70s and a car's windows  
               are left slightly open, a vehicle can heat up more than 40  
               degrees within an hour.


               If an animal's safety appears to be in immediate danger,  
               California Penal Code section 597.7 allows peace officers,  
               humane officers, and animal control officers to take any  
               reasonable steps to remove the animal from a vehicle  
               including, but not limited to, breaking into the vehicle.   
               The section does not, however, allow civilians to  
               physically remove an animal from a vehicle, regardless how  
               urgent or life-threatening the situation is.  Currently,  
               civilians in California who observe an animal in immediate  
               danger are not legally permitted to do anything, other than  
               attempt to find the animal's owner (which can prove to be  
               difficult, if not impossible, and time-consuming) and/or  
               notify the authorities. 


               By the time a citizen spots an animal trapped in a hot  








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               vehicle the situation is often dire, and requires immediate  
               action.  Because a call of this nature is not a priority  
               for law enforcement, peace officers may not respond in  
               time.  Due to the very limited resources of animal control  
               agencies across the state, as much as animal control  
               officers would like to respond quickly to a call of an  
               animal in a hot vehicle, it is not always feasible. 


               One of the most common questions advocates gets from  
               members of the public (especially during the summer months)  
               is whether they can legally make entry into a vehicle to  
               save an animal.  When they are told the law only allows law  
               enforcement and animal control officers to forcibly remove  
               an animal from a vehicle most express frustration and say  
               that they are often torn about what action, if any, to take  
               when they see an animal in a hot car; as much people would  
               like to help an animal trapped in a vehicle, they are often  
               deterred from taking action due to fear of being sued  
               and/or arrested. 


               An example of the problem with current law can best be seen  
               in a case involving a dog that was left unattended in a  
               shopping mall parking lot.  In this tragic case a bystander  
               noticed a dog that had collapsed on the floor of a locked  
               vehicle on a warm summer day.  The bystander called 911 and  
               waited for emergency service personnel to arrive.  As the  
               bystander waited other people gathered around the vehicle  
               waiting for emergency services to arrive.  As the  
               bystanders waited they watched as the animal continued to  
               suffer and eventually die.  The bystanders told law  
               enforcement that they considered making entry to the  
               vehicle but decided against taking action because they were  
               afraid of being arrested or sued.


               AB 797 will provide a legal framework for a Good Samaritan  
               to follow in order to remove an animal from a hot vehicle,  
               without fear of legal repercussions.  


          2.  Effect of This Legislation 









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          Penal Code section 597.7 makes it unlawful for a person to  
          "leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle  
          under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an  
          animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack  
          of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably  
          be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the  
          animal."  While this law authorizes peace officers, animal  
          control officers, and humane officers to take reasonable steps  
          to save the life of an animal trapped in an unattended vehicle,  
          even if they must break into the car to do so, it is silent on  
          the ability of citizen bystanders to act to save the life of the  
          animal in the same situation.  To address this issue, this  
          legislation would make an individual immune from criminal  
          liability if the person breaks into the car and rescues a dog,  
          so long as the person is acting reasonably and in good faith,  
          and does the following: 

                 Determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise  
               no reasonable manner for the animal to be removed from the  
               vehicle;
                 Contacts a local law enforcement agency, the fire  
               department, animal control, or the "911" emergency service  
               prior to forcibly entering the vehicle;
                 Uses no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the  
               animal from the vehicle than was necessary under the  
               circumstances; and,
                 Immediately turns the animal over to a representative  
               from law enforcement, animal control, or another emergency  
               responder who responds to the scene.
          
          3.  Argument in Opposition

          The California Federation of Dog Clubs states in opposition: 

               It would be impossible in most cases to determine if a  
               dog is in "imminent danger from heat, cold, lack of  
               adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other  
               [undefined] circumstances that could reasonably be  
               expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to  
               the animal." 

               When was the last time you left your dog supplied with  
               food and water in the car while you made a quick stop  








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               at the market on a cool day?  There have already been  
               many cases where well-intended bystanders broke into a  
               vehicle to "rescue" a dog, alarmed because it may be  
               exhibiting normal, non-distressed behavior like  
               panting or barking, or may be safely confined in a  
               crate.  A "rescuer" could put himself at risk of being  
               bitten, put the dog at risk of being lost or hit by a  
               car, and put the public at risk due to an escaped  
               dog-at-large.  The unfortunate owner could find  
               himself liable for unwarranted damages to his  
               property, suffering the loss of his pet and would have  
               no recourse for damage to the car or the loss or death  
               of his dog in the course of the "rescue."  He may even  
               find himself sued for a dog bite situation!

               This bill is of particular concern to those who  
               participate in dog events and activities involving  
               multiple dogs which may spend time being responsibly  
               housed in a motor home or other vehicle.  Dog  
               enthusiasts are highly aware of the dangers of  
               temperature extremes in vehicles, and are rarely  
               guilty of putting their valued animals at-risk in such  
               dangerous situations. 

               The CFODC believes that "rescue" should be handled by  
               professionals who, in the vast majority of cases, can  
               be on the scene within minutes, and who are better  
               prepared and equipped to deal with assessment and  
               intervention in such situations. 
          

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